Closing the Skills Gap: Cisco Canada’s Mission with Wayne Cuervo

Closing the Skills Gap: Cisco Canada's Mission with Wayne Cuervo

In his insightful interview with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, Wayne Cuervo, Director of the Digital Impact Office at Cisco Canada, addressed the growing skills gap in the Canadian digital economy and Cisco’s efforts to mitigate it. Wayne highlighted the increasing demand for digital skills, with forecasts indicating that the digital economy could represent 11% of all Canadian employment by 2025. This gap, he noted, challenges Canadian organizations’ global competitiveness. To combat this, Cisco’s Networking Academy plays a crucial role, offering industry-recognized credentials and courses in various digital domains to over 340,000 learners across Canada. Success stories like the ‘Coding for Veterans’ program underscore the academy’s impact, with a notable 85% job placement rate. Looking forward, Wayne emphasized Cisco’s continued commitment to digital inclusion, aiming to train an additional 25 million learners in digital and cybersecurity skills over the next decade, further demonstrating Cisco’s dedication to empowering individuals and addressing the evolving demands of the digital landscape.

Wayne Cuervo is the Director of the Digital Impact Office at Cisco Canada, responsible for leading Cisco Toronto Innovation Labs to bring programming that accelerates innovation across Cisco’s key vertical industries. He’s worked at Cisco for over 21 years, since 2002, working his way up as an IT Project Manager to lead the only Innovation Centre in North America. 

Wayne, Cisco’s recent Purpose Report highlights a growing skills gap across Canada. Could you elaborate on the nature of this gap and its implications for the Canadian Economy? // 2. Why is the existing skills gap particularly challenging for Canadian organizations, and how does it affect their competitiveness in the global market?

The acceleration of digitization over the last several years has rapidly increased the demand for digital skills in organizations across Canada. The ICTC forecasts that by the end of 2025, employment in the digital economy will reach roughly 11% of all employment in Canada, resulting in 250,000 additional jobs to meet the demand.

In fact, 55% of tech entrepreneurs are struggling to hire the employees they need. As Canada rapidly adopts new technology, addressing the digital skills gap is now a strategic imperative for companies to foster innovation, sustain growth and compete effectively within Canada and on the international stage.

At Cisco, we believe every Canadian should have an equal opportunity to participate in the digital economy. This commitment drives our active involvement in bridging the digital divide through initiatives like the Networking Academy, which provides valuable digital skills and training to Canadians.

How is Cisco contributing to closing the skills gap in Canada, and what unique approaches are you taking through programs like the Networking Academy?

We know that a digital divide exists in Canada between those who can connect and obtain the skills to participate fully in our digital world, and those who cannot. This gap limits people from engaging in an increasingly digital economy – and with the ongoing pace of technological development, that gap is growing. 

Cisco Networking Academy offers world-class learning tools delivered through a robust partner network that connects with Canadians in many different corners of the country. We provide IT courses through an online platform that has given industry-recognized credentials to 340,811 learners across the country over more than two decades.

By meeting learners where they are, whether through a high school, vocational college, university, nonprofit, or independent learning, we can focus not just on skills, but on providing the resources needed to support people on their career journeys. This commitment enables all Canadians to actively engage in the digital era, fostering inclusivity and empowerment no matter their location or experience. 

We’re dedicated to adapting Cisco’s Networking Academy to the ever-changing landscape, offering courses in subjects like AI, entrepreneurship and English for IT to better support learners with the critical skills needed to work and thrive in our ever-changing digital world.

What are some success stories or notable achievements of students who have gone through the Networking Academy program?

We help power communities through access to education. Our purpose drives us to ensure the benefits of digital readiness are shared equitably across all members of society, enabling all Canadians to participate in the digital era, regardless of their location and background. 

For example, one of Networking Academy’s programs, Coding for Veterans, has enrolled +600 Canadian veterans since its inception, providing critical digital skills and an 85% job placement rate within in-demand IT and cybersecurity jobs. 

This past year saw our biggest growth rate yet in student participants at 38% more students from 2022 across the 247 academies that participate in Canada. 

Looking ahead, what are Cisco’s next big goals in terms of social impact and digital inclusion, and how do you plan to achieve them?

In 2016, Cisco set a goal to positively impact one billion people globally by fiscal 2025, and we’re so incredibly proud that we’ve surpassed that goal more than a year early. This extraordinary milestone was made possible by the passion and dedication of our leaders and employees, along with the exceptional work of our global nonprofit partners and the leadership of the Cisco Foundation and Cisco Networking Academy.

However, we know there is more to do to care for our planet and our communities to build a more inclusive and equitable future for everyone. As we consider the next goal we’ll set for ourselves, we’re thinking about the future of our Purpose and the impact it can have on the world. 

For the part of the Cisco Networking Academy, we’re continuing to work to close our skills gap in Canada and beyond. Since its inception, we’ve trained over 20.5 million learners in 190 countries, 11,700 academies, and 27 languages. In early October 2022, we announced a new global goal, to offer digital and cybersecurity skills training to 25 million more learners over the next 10 years. 

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